Alexander Withey.
Alexander Withey. Submitted

Grafton students excel at study

THE honours have been coming thick and fast for Mylneford's Withey family with two university graduations in the past month.

On April 21 Alexander Withey graduated from The University of NSW (UNSW) as a Bachelor of Engineering in Industrial Chemistry, with First Class Honours.

And on May 5 his sister Carolyn graduated from UNSW with a Masters Degree of Commerce in International Business.

The success of the pair will come as no surprise as they both were dux of their years at South Grafton High School; Carolyn in 1999 and Alexander in 2003. Carolyn's degree is her second, building on her Bachelor of Chemical Engineering from UNSW

The proud parents, Bruce and Lyn, journeyed to Sydney for both graduations and both have high hopes for their children.

“Carolyn did her first degree with an industry scholarship from Caltex, who she now works for,” said Lyn.

“She did her Masters in international business because she has plans to become general manager.”

Her little brother was not to be outdone and he too completed his degree on an industrial scholarship, with the companies Selleys, Siemens Water Technology, Bluescope Steel and Unilever supporting him.

But he credits one of his teachers at South Grafton High for igniting his passion for chemistry.

“I've always enjoyed science and maths, but it was Brian Heath who really turned me on to chemistry,” Alexander said.

“His enthusiasm and direction that got me dedicated to chemistry.”

Alexander's thesis for the honours component of his degree showed his ingenuity.

It was on micro encapsulating cobalt-based anti-cancer drugs using polymer technology.

In layman's terms this means putting a plastic coating around the highly toxic drugs used in chemo-therapy for cancer patients, so that they can be delivered safely to the site of the cancer.

“This sort of technology improves treatment of cancer patients by reducing the amount of drugs and their side effects,” he said.

For around a year Alexander was working with objects in the 10 to 20 nanometre range - roughly one tenth the width of a human hair. He also made his own polymers to coat the drugs.

However, the fun and games is almost over for Alexander, who has spent his most recent days hunting for a job.

“I've got a job interview coming up, so I'm hoping it works out,” he said.

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